Sleep Medicine Is Here to Help You Get a Good Night’s Rest

“Sleeping well is the most important thing on this earth.” Samir Ataya, M.D., on a common problem that sometimes has a simple solution.
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Samir Ataya, M.D.
Sleep Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, Pulmonology
Mercy Health – Anderson Pulmonary, Sleep, and Critical Care

People don’t know that sleep is an active process. On the back end, a lot of things are happening to prepare you for another day. That’s why it’s important to have a full restful night so you can recover for another day.

Sleep medicine covers a wide spectrum of diseases, from sleep apnea to insomnia to narcolepsy. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea. Basically, that’s when your throat closes up when you’re sleeping, which leads to a drop in oxygenation. That stresses the brain, heart, and lungs. It’s been linked to strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and also depression and anxiety. Symptoms can include snoring, stopped breathing at night, and daytime sleepiness. Those are the top three.

There are many causes. A common risk factor is obesity. When you gain weight, you get fat tissue in the tongue and in the back of the throat. That makes the upper airway narrower, and it closes up on you. When it closes up at night, there’s no air going in, no oxygen. That wakes up the brain.

[In treating sleep apnea], the first thing we want to do is confirm it. We do home or in-lab sleep testing. After the sleep test, we download the data and analyze it. If they have sleep apnea, we give them a machine with a mask called a CPAP [which stands for continuous positive airway pressure]. It blows air constantly and it keeps your throat open at night while you sleep.

There aren’t too many things in medicine that are very simple and get a great result. The CPAP is one of them. Patients come back and say, “Doc, I’ve never felt that good in my life. It’s like night and day.” It’s so rewarding for me. That’s one of the attractions that pulled me into sleep care. Besides, I enjoy reviewing sleep studies and analyzing the data to figure out if they have anything else. Do they have arrhythmia, moving of the legs? Do they have seizure activity? Do they have some sort of insomnia?

One in four men have sleep apnea, and one in 10 women. But even with all the awareness efforts we’re doing, we’re capturing just the tip of people affected. There are so many people walking around with sleep apnea that we’re not addressing.

Sleeping well is the most important thing on this earth. If you’re not rested, you’re not going to function at full capacity. Whether you’re 10 years old or 70 years old, there are a certain number of hours that you have to sleep. For teenagers, you have to have eight to 10. For school age, you need nine to 11 and adults need seven to nine. If you’re not sleeping those hours, you have to look at why. We’re really not covering the sleep quality of our patients very well in the medical society. You almost never ask, “How was your night?” Being more aware of that as a problem and trying to tap into it would do a lot of good for our patients. —As told to Michele Day

Note: Click here to view Dr. Ataya’s appearance on Local 12’s Good Morning Cincinnati with our Editor-in-Chief John Fox to discuss our Top Doctors list and Ataya’s area of care.

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